Baggy Paragraphs

Posts Tagged ‘sports

In second NASCAR Nationwide race, Dakoda Armstrong comes home 15th, but not unfettered, at Auto Club Speedway

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Dakoda Armstrong after the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

Dakoda Armstrong after the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

On March 23, 2013, making his second-ever start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Dakoda Armstrong finished 15th in the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

Q. Fifteenth position—pretty good for your second race.

A. Yeah, I mean, we were better than that, but we were struggling on restarts there. I think we restarted ninth on that last one. Those people that had new tires behind us—you get stuck three-wide between everybody, and it’s really hard to get this thing to handle right. You get spread out. We just lost too much ground there to make up. We were hoping another caution was going to come out so we could come back in and use our last set of tires. Everyone else that took them was going to be sitting ducks. Didn’t work out that way.

Q. Overall was it fun or frustrating?

A. For a while there it was fun. I thought we were getting it, and I thought we were going to have a good finish. I’ve just got to get my restarts down and figure out what it needs on those.

Q. Your boss, Richard Childress, has to be fairly impressed.

A. Well, at least we brought it home in one piece. That’s one good thing.

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March 24, 2013 at 11:33 am

Sam Hornish smokes the field, then the finish line, at Las Vegas

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How to celebrate after winning the Sam’s Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

A burnout at the finish line by Sam Hornish, who then climbs out to catch the checkered flag.

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March 9, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Bicycle Sam sings me a new tune(up)

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I bought my bicycle, a Diamond Back Ascent EX, in 1990, paying $195 to a medical student who wanted to build his own bike from custom components. According to the owner’s manual, he’d purchased it from Puck & Pedal, in Lansing, Michigan, on June 16, 1989.

During my ownership, I’ve ridden through the Kjalvegur, or Keel Route, between two massive glaciers in the central highlands of Iceland and over the 11,000-foot pass beside Mulhacén peak, the highest mountain in Spain. My bike and I have covered trails in Michigan, Colorado, and Utah. After moving to California in 2011, I’ve pedaled several times up to White Saddle, which is the summit above Monrovia Canyon Park and involves climbing 2000 feet. The downhill return trip is a scream, although on my very first descent I went too hot into a hairpin turn where water flowed across the trail, and when the front tire skidded on leaves, I very nearly dislocated my right shoulder by landing armpit first, with all my weight on the socket. The bike, of course, was unbloodied.

But hairy adventures aren’t the full extent of it. My bike has also taken me eight blocks away, to Ralph’s, and carried back a $70 grocery order.

In 1996, the Diamond Back conquered the tallest mountain in Spain. But it also can do Ralph’s Market.

Over the years I’ve made various upgrades: new pedals, grips, leather saddle, a rack. A few months ago, though, a brake cable popped loose, and the derailleur needed adjustment anyway, so I left the bike covered up. Back in April I’d been into a shop in Claremont, seen a whole bunch of beautiful new Trek cycles, and started wallowing in a pit of disinterest as far as my Diamond Back was concerned. New bikes have lots of appealing features! Mine is like a donkey: few features and little appeal. But I kept reminding myself of a friend’s remark when shown a photo: “It has character!”

Only this week did I get around to seeing Bicycle Sam for a tuneup. He has a little shop a mile and a half away, so on Monday I loaded the bike into the back of my car and drove down there. I figured this would be a slow time of year in a bike shop. Sam, a slender Asian guy, took a quick look and said it was Diamond Back’s best model twenty-two years ago. Amazing how accurate his model-year assessment was–just a year off!

And my guess about business being slow was right. It would be ready later that afternoon, Sam said. I was busy, though, and only got down there today, Wednesday, to pick it up. After he wheeled out the bike, he couldn’t speak highly enough about its sturdiness—“The best components!”—and predicted I’ll still be riding it twenty-two years from now. I guess Sam thinks I’m made of sturdy stuff, too.

It was a pleasure to pay him $55. Not only did he tune up the bike, but also he administered some attitude adjustment. Encouragement and praise have a way of wrenching one’s perspective around 180 degrees. Now I like my bike better than ever.

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November 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Naked Boot

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November 26, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Games, Ha!

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Beer Hat

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These fans were leaving Kentucky Speedway after the Click It or Ticket Buckle-Up Kentucky 150 on July 18. The headgear-eyewear combo got my attention, but what keeps it now is the killer smile.



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August 20, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Games, Persons

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Spotter’s Gaze

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Spotter's View

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June 26, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Games, Motors, Persons

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Game of the Century

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Waiting for the game was like waiting for Christmas itself. We woke up on Monday, pinched ourselves, and counted only three more days. On Tuesday, two more days. And then an interminable Wednesday, the clock using a walker to drag itself around. Finally, it arrived: Thanksgiving Day, 1971. The Nebraska Cornhuskers would play the Oklahoma Sooners. “The Game of the Century,” the TV was saying, but even a 16-year-old recoiled from the hype. More than a quarter of the century remained to be played out. But it was a huge game. When the Cornhuskers won in thrilling fashion, yet again retaining their number-one ranking, we experienced euphoria in equal measure to the pre-game anxiety, waking Friday, pinching ourselves, and counting the first day since the great victory, and the second, and third, eager to return Monday to school and talk about Johnny Rodgers’s Etch-a-Sketch punt return and share the feeling that we Nebraskans were finally important.

huskers01It had never occurred to me that someone would write a book about all this, but my friend Budd recently passed along Michael Corcoran’s “The Game of the Century: Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in College Football’s Ultimate Battle,” published by Simon & Schuster in 2004. I could hardly wait to dip into a slick writer’s treatment of the subject. The opening chapters’ pace is excellent as Corcoran summarizes how Bob Devaney bounced around in Michigan high schools and was almost resigned to a mediocre life as a school administrator when Michigan State’s football staff solicited his services. (It isn’t explained the Spartans had won the 1952 national title and the program was a fecund producer of coaches.) Eight years later, Devaney brought his quips, garrulity, and football savvy to Lincoln.

My view of Oklahoma’s coaches had always been predictably dim, but Corcoran changes all that through his humane portrayals of the likable and accomplished Bud Wilkinson, the beleaguered but determined Chuck Fairbanks, and of course Barry Switzer, who was touched by tragedy. Something the three coaches shared in common, incidentally, was an excellent command of English. (Wilkinson had a master’s degree in literature and liked to sit down at the organ.) After a season of listening to Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez mangle his cases, a yearning arises.

The narrative builds momentum. It is clear why the looming game would be so important. But at an early point in the book I found myself beginning to chafe at some of Corcoran’s contrivances. Before 10 pages pass, the work is already creaking under the strain of the clichéd theme which asserts that football naturally flourished in a state inhabited by people of “pioneer stock,” to whom no game could seem too violent because life was so hard. (Through the rickety sides of a corn crib, do I hear the wind soughing?) Having grown up in Omaha and benefited from such advances as Cinerama, a sprayer attachment at the kitchen faucet, and daily radio serenades from Charlie Graham Buick (“That’s why Omaha-town is Buick-town, they’re all driving Buicks, best car around”), well, my pioneer stock had become diluted, I guess, and I really didn’t see it in my parents, either. Admittedly, Corcoran applies his asseveration to the much earlier era that produced song lyrics like these:

Where the girls are the fairest,

The boys are the squarest,

Of any old school that I knew.

But following his line of reasoning too closely would produce shock that, in 1952, for example, it was possible to drive an automobile from Florence, at Omaha’s northern edge, over to Iowa by crossing
a toll bridge over the Missouri River. (Why would anyone have wanted to go to Iowa, especially if paying a toll?) Or that the Nebraska Capitol, completed in 1932, is a modern masterpiece. It’s possible to lean too hard and long on the rickety fence that surrounds the state’s pioneer history. While also leaning a bit too often on sportswriters’ shopworn phrases like “particularly stellar,” Corcoran still manages to generate the anticipation of a thrilling climax to his tale. Here, I was disappointed. Note to journalism students across the land: it’s sometimes possible to do too much interviewing. Corcoran lets his tape recorder take over the story in the last 20 pages. It’s no longer a book but instead an ESPN retrospective, with each principal taking his turn in the spotlight. All the tension fizzles out as oral history intercedes. The author’s abdication is hard to figure out. It’s like giving up command of your cruise liner too early to the harbor pilot and being dashed against the rocks: hardly a salutary end to the journey.

Anyone who faults that metaphor, pointing out my landlubbing origins, is hereby referred to Corcoran’s line about Bob Devaney, who “looked more like a man who would give you an easy smile as he pushed his cap back slightly on his head and said he was sorry but your radiator was shot and that it’d be a day or two before the parts came in to fix it.” Hmmm. Maybe Corcoran knows something I don’t, but even in jalopies like those the Okies drove to California, the repair of radiators’ brass tubes and tanks just required a flushing out and bit of brazing before you were on your way. Which formula could be applied to “The Game of the Century,” as well.

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April 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm


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